Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is one of a number of medical disorders that is largely misunderstood by the general public. In fact, the nature of CFS is such that too many people believe it’s not real. I want you to know that CFS isn’t just in your head. If you are suffering from all of the classic symptoms of this debilitating disorder, it can be diagnosed and treated.
Like fibromyalgia, CFS was virtually unheard of – at least as a clinical diagnosis – 30 years ago. Even 20 years ago, the medical community was slow to accept the legitimacy of CFS despite mounting evidence of its existence. A lot has changed since then.
Modern medical science accepts the reality of CFS and similar issues. It is estimated that CFS now affects some 250,000 people in the UK alone. The financial costs associated with treatment and lost productivity is in the billions annually. The good news is that we are getting better at identifying CFS and treating it appropriately.
The Primary Symptoms of CFS
As a private rheumatologist in London, I frequently diagnose CFS in patients presenting to my clinic. Some are dealing only with that one condition. Others come to me because they are suffering from concurrent conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and so forth.
If you believe you are suffering from CFS, you should exhibit at least several of the most common symptoms. Obviously, extreme and persistent tiredness is the number one symptom one would notice. Other symptoms include:
- joint or muscle pain
- sore throat or glands (without swelling)
- cognitive problems (memory, thinking, etc.)
- feeling dizzy or flu-like symptoms
- heart palpitations.
Extreme and persistent fatigue combined with any of the other symptoms is reason enough to see a rheumatologist. Note that there is no test we can run to definitively identify CFS. Instead, diagnosis is made through observation of your symptoms and ruling out other possibilities.
Should I See a Rheumatologist for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
If you go to see your GP and they suspect that you have CFS, they will usually refer you to see a specialist, such as a neurologist or a rheumatologist, to check for other health conditions that may be a cause for your symptoms.
A specialist rheumatologist such as myself can run a series of tests to help find the cause. You may have other health conditions and still have chronic fatigue syndrome.
Does a rheumatologist treat chronic fatigue syndrome?
Doctors that specialise in treating CFS include rheumatologists, immunologists and endocrinologists. So yes, you can consult with me about your chronic fatigue symptoms and undergo a set of diagnostic tests that will help uncover the cause of your symptoms.
The main aim of getting a proper diagnosis and the right treatment for CFS is to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life effectively. Many people with CFS can work hold down a job that allows some flexibility.
However, it is essential to manage your symptoms with the best combination of medications, therapy, diet and lifestyle practices to make sure you can live your very best life. This is why it makes sense to work with my team and me to ensure you get the very best support.
Chronic fatigue specialist London
If you have many of the common symptoms of CFS but have to wait a long time for an appointment to see your GP, you can book a private consultation with me at one of my London practices.
Having a private consultation will help speed up your diagnosis so you can get the answers you need and start the appropriate treatment quicker. You can book a consultation at a practice that is most convenient for you.
I currently practice from the prestigious, luxurious, world-renowned clinic rooms of 9 Harley Street in London, Spire London East, BMI Cavell and King’s Oak.
Coping with CFS
I view CFS in much the same way I view fibromyalgia, in the sense that I firmly believe it doesn’t have to define who you are. CFS can be managed in such a way as to help you cope with the symptoms while still living a full and productive life. That is what I focus on at my London rheumatology clinic.
One of the first things I recommend following diagnosis is that the patient consider making certain lifestyle changes. For example, getting enough rest is critical to proper management. I might also discuss the need to better understand your limitations so that you don’t overdo things.
As for treatments, there are a number of options. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is recommended by a lot of doctors. This is a talking therapy that helps patients understand what they are going through so that they can better manage their thoughts, emotions, and decisions.
Exercise is another option and one that is better than you might think. Though too much exercise may exacerbate CFS symptoms, moderate exercise will actually strengthen tired muscles and increase energy levels. Just as a side note, exercise is helpful for so many physical maladies. We all need to get more of it.
Note that with proper management, most CFS patients improve over time. Symptom flare-ups are also not uncommon. If you think your symptoms may indicate CFS and you would like to know more, I would be happy to see you at my clinic.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome FAQs
Who can diagnose CFS?
It is usual for people with symptoms of CFS to seek help from their GP. In many cases, your GP will refer you to a specialist to eliminate other causes if they are unsure about the diagnosis. Specialists such as rheumatologists can test to see if there are any other illness-causing your symptoms because the symptoms of CFS can be similar to many other illnesses. If your symptoms have been lingering for longer than expected, a rheumatologist can rule out other health conditions and will diagnose CFS.
How long does chronic fatigue syndrome last?
Unfortunately, chronic fatigue syndrome is an ongoing condition with no absolute cure. People diagnosed with CFS are helped to manage their condition rather than given treatment to resolve it. Your health care team will work with you to formulate a personalised management programme that will combine a multidisciplinary approach that includes pain relief, lifestyle changes and gentle physical exercise.
What causes chronic fatigue syndrome?
There is no one identifiable cause for CFS. Medical professionals theorise that CFS can be triggered by things such as an infection, major trauma or a very stressful life event that can make people more prone to developing this health condition. Some suggested causes for CFS include pneumonia, glandular fever, a weakened immune system, a genetic predisposition, and a hormone imbalance.
How to get rid of chronic fatigue syndrome?
Unfortunately, those diagnosed with CFS have to learn to live with the condition. However, symptoms can come and go in waves or cycles, so you may have periods where you feel a lot better, followed by a spell where your symptoms return, and you feel worse. Some CFS patients experience periods of remission but still have to be careful not to trigger a relapse. CFS is a health condition that can be managed and minimised with specialist help but not altogether cured.
How to lose weight with chronic fatigue syndrome?
We all know that diet and exercise can help us lose pounds and maintain a healthy weight, and this is no less true when you suffer from CFS. While there aren’t any specific diets to follow for CFS, it does help to improve your general health and better manage your symptoms if you are careful about what you eat. The most important thing to do is drop any inflammatory foods from your diet. Inflammation seems to play a role in CFS symptoms, so eating an anti-inflammatory diet can help. You should avoid inflammatory foods such as sugar, industrial vegetable and seed oils, and ultra-processed packet foods with a long list of unpronounceable ingredients. Staying well hydrated by sipping water throughout the day can help because dehydration makes CFS symptoms worse. Gentle exercise can help to tone your muscles and burn body fat, but it is essential not to overdo it. Try a yoga class, take up swimming or go for a short and steady walk each day.
Article by Dr. Naveen Bhadauria